The Standing Big Toe Pose—also known as Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana—is a challenging one legged balance posture that requires flexibility and strength. It’s a key standing pose in ashtanga yoga and found in many vinyasa yoga sequences.
Whether the full posture currently feels out of reach for you to practice or if you’d like to improve your technique there are a few other yoga postures and variations that you can practice to work on the flexibility, strength and balance required for the Standing Big Toe Pose.
In this blog we’ll explore how you can practice a short sequence of yoga postures that build up step-by-step to the Standing Big Toe Pose.
Want to be guided through a progressive yoga practice building up to the Standing Big Toe Pose? Practice along with my Standing Big Toe Pose Sequence.
Standing Big Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana) Sequence
(1) Lying Knee-to-Chest Pose
Start by lying down on your back and hugging one knee into your chest. Use the help of your hands to draw your knee into your chest, while keeping the opposite leg extended out and heavy.
After staying here for five breaths release your knee from your chest and change to the other side. You could try this a few times on each side to gently warm up your body.
(2) Reclined Big Toe Pose with Belt
If you have a belt available place it around the ball of your foot and extend one leg up actively away from you. In case you don’t have a belt you could use a scarf or hold the back of your thigh with your hands.
Pause here for at least five breaths, allowing one leg to reach actively upwards and the other leg to be heavy in the ground. If it feels comfortable you can work on straightening the leg in the belt and also drawing the leg a little towards your chest.
Release and change to the other side.
(3) Standing Knee-to-Chest Pose
We’ll now start working on the standing balance by drawing our weight into one leg and bringing the other knee towards our chest. You want to ground through the foot of the standing leg and work on lengthening up through your standing leg and upper body.
Like with the lying Knee-to-Chest pose you can use the help of your hands to draw your knee up towards your chest. Stay here for five breaths and then switch to the opposite side.
(4) Standing Single Leg Balance Pose with Belt
Like we did lying down, it can be useful to use a belt around the ball of your foot when standing on one leg. By firmly holding the belt and pressing your foot into the belt it gives you the possibility to work on actively straightening your leg while balancing.
You can start by keeping the leg in the belt relatively low and long. And then see how it feels to gradually lift the belt and your leg upwards. Focus here on really extending your leg in the belt, even if that means keeping the leg a bit lower.
(5) Standing Big Toe Pose
If these postures feel challenging you can keep practicing them and working on your flexibility, strength and balance for the Standing Big Toe Pose.
Again start to balance on one leg with your knee into your chest and then see how it feels to bring your hand to the inside of the leg and reach towards the big toe. You can have your opposite hand on your hip and keep allowing yourself to lift up from your standing leg.
From here, if you’re steady, you can gradually work on extending your leg while holding firmly your big toe. To begin with you might keep the leg a little bent and as you feel more steady, strong and open in the pose work towards straightening the leg.
Three tips for practice
(1) Spread Your Awareness to Your Entire Body
During this sequence we’ve been very focused on the legs and hips. Don’t forget about the rest of your body! Try to keep your core engaged and shoulders above your hips throughout all of these standing balance poses.
(2) Keep Breathing!
Keep breathing throughout and allow your breath to guide your movement. Yoga is after all about linking movement to breath. So however tempting it might be to hold your breath, keep working on breathing steadily and smoothly.
(3) Accept Where You Are
Although it can feel fun in yoga to work towards practicing challenging yoga poses it’s also important to meet where your body where it is. And not try to push yourself into a posture that it doesn’t feel ready for it.
The beauty of yoga is for you to explore and work with your body, rather than to push in a way that doesn’t feel appropriate.
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